Sidney Myer Haven Education centre's 23 housing units will cater for the regions vulnerable population

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A smoking ceremony marked the official opening of The Sidney Myer Haven Education Centre Picture: GLENN DANIELS

A smoking ceremony marked the official opening of The Sidney Myer Haven Education Centre Picture: GLENN DANIELS

AN Australian-first housing and education centre in Bendigo promises to offer much more than a roof over vulnerable peoples’ heads.

The Sidney Myer Haven Education Centre, officially opened on Friday in the city, will house more than 30 locals struggling with the dearth of inexpensive rental accommodation in Bendigo. 

But organisers have warned the short-medium-term facility will not simply be a halfway house for those looking to take advantage of the system. 

Chairperson of the Haven; Home, Safe board, Sue Clarke, said participants will sign a ‘contract’, committing themselves to various educational and rehabilitative programs designed to reintegrate them back into society.

“The centre is for tenants who want to make a difference in their lives,” said Mrs Clarke, who added the facility was not necessarily for homeless people.  

“If they can’t (participate in programs) then it’s not the place for them.”

The bulk of funding for the $7.5 million centre, which has 23 housing units, was provided through the state government’s Victorian Property Fund.

The fund comprises a pool of money raked in from fines to real estate agents, among other things.

Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz said it was the initiative of local agencies and organisations to apply for the $4 million in funding which kick-started the project.

Public Transport Victoria has funded a Health and Wellbeing Coach, who will be part of a team of six helping oversee the centre. 

Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said the centre will help break the cycle of long-term homelessness in Bendigo. 

Tenants, including a number of children, will stay in the facility located in Flora Hill for 18-24 months. 

General Manager at the centre, Gabriella Browne, said a number of participants had already found employment in various sectors, including community services, retail and skilled trades.

Some of the children residing at the facility, which has been operational since October, 2016, have also been helped back into school, Mrs Browne added.